Frightened Rabbit

support The Folk Factory
author HES date 25/11/13 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

I missed Frightened Rabbit on this year's Northside Festival, but chance would have it I got to cash the rain check tonight. I show up at Lille Vega’s small intimate stage a godforsaken Monday night. For some reasons all the shows I want to see these days are playing Sundays or Mondays and this day in particular I am tired enough to fall asleep standing. Luckily I'm in good company that keeps me awake 'til the music starts. The rest is up to the bands really. I know Frightened Rabbit almost solely by name before tonight, so I have to ask for forgiveness if some of the song titles referred are not in order - but after tonight’s show I’ll beat myself up more than you will for not having studied this band closer before.

Full gallery from the show available from Kenny Swan

The Folk Factory

I guess the line between indie rock and folk has been crossed over so many times by now, that the warm up band can be one and the main act the other. In the role of folk band tonight is The Folk Factory. The room is not quite empty, but only barely, as the quartet hits the stage, but it doesn’t take long for people in the adjoining rooms to join in as word of the setup is spread. On stage are four men in full folk-getup - one more bearded than the next one. I am not good with all these weirdly shaped mini-guitars, but as far as I can see we have a guy on accordion, one on a banjo, one on a mandolin and thank God, a regular guitar. Through-out the show the band mates swap instruments while apologizing for the tuning that is needed in a process like that.

The first song is - in lack of better universal references - Mumford and Sons’ish. It’s an up-beat folk song and a very authentic one. To our surprise the band announces themselves in flat, easy understandable, undoubtedly mother tongue Danish. The girl next to me laughs to her boyfriend - we have been fooled by these hill-billy troubadours. They are not from the plains of Iowa or the deserts of Nebraska. It seems they might be from Jutland or something, their website doesn't say, so who knows? That we've been fooled just tells a story of how authentically folk these guys sound. In between songs we get small introductions by changing band members as the rest tune away. All in all it’s an endearing set of up-beat and slower songs, all kept very folk. Unfortunately the melody patterns and sometimes slightly pedestrian lyrics work against them and a couple of the more country ballad style songs in the middle are borderline corny. But when these things are mushed in between polyphonic harmonies and foot-operated bass drums and hi-hat they're mostly forgiven.

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Frightened Rabbit

Frontman Scott Hutchison originally named the band (then a solo project) after his former, very shy self. And he does kind of look like a very well-trained but still very shy little rabbit looking for his hole. Only thing is this is his hole and a transformation of some kind happens as he really steps up to the mic and starts singing along with the pulsating guitar of show opener “Holy”. He reminds me of one of my absolute all-time favorite frontmen; Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World. Both are obviously quite introvert - at least in the gaze of the crowd? But towards the music and the instruments they project such passion that they seem to embody something opposite of introversion: complete catharsis. Watching Hutchison lead on this symphony is like watching a man sweating out all of his demons right in front of us. As it becomes obvious that the audience is more than ready to create a symbiosis on his accord, he opens up and the frightened rabbit is not tame, but forthcoming.

The soundscape should be dense as there are six people on stage. But in some way, the different layers of guitars, bass and synths interweave and never block out each other. Instead the sound is light, but effortlessly grandiose. Where the songs I got to listen to before the show could easily appear a bit flat at first listen, this is the complete opposite - greatly helped along the way by drummer Grant Hutchison (Scott's brother) who through the night really supplies the drizzle of shooting stars on an otherwise also very beautiful night sky, hitting the mark every time the rhythm (intentionally and beautifully) becomes contrapuntal. During “Dead Now” keyboardist/guitarist Andy Monaghan manages to sample something that sounds almost like violins twisted into the screeches of microphone statics just balancing the threshold of euphony. I am in musical heaven. Maybe I’m just tired, but I almost seem to slip in and out of trance every time the band glides into those beautiful outros of choir’ish "oh oh oh"'s and layers upon layers of static.

In “Decembers Tradition’s” we really get the whole Scottish package as Hutchison’s strong accent rumbles through the quiet verses, rising in thundering intensity when closing in on the chorus. They follow with a song from their first album called “Music Now” which is played LOUDLY. And finally the a song I have personally already fallen head over heels in love with “State Hospital” - catching a bit of that ambiance of Death Cab for Cutie (whom the band has toured with) but still so very genuinely “Frightened Rabbit” at the same time as Hutchison cries “Her heart beats like a breeze block thrown down the stairs. Her blood is thicker than concrete forced to be brave she was, born into a grave”. Whereas many might think lyrics should be secondary to the music, in my eyes the perfect experience is when both support each other and I do curse myself for standing so close to the stage, because the sound here is probably not as good as two rows back - Hutchison’s voice is not always on top in the mix from where I stand. But I honestly don’t want to move further away from this magic.

The drums of “The Wrestle” pierces the crowd like gun shots. Hutchisons voice breaks a bit on “Fast Blood” but it’s not a flaw, it’s endearing, vulnerable and so very, very beautiful. We get a very beautiful rendition of the every so well-written “Nitrous Gas” and we get both Hutchisons (Grant leaves the drums for a while to sing back up harmonies) centre stage without the rest of the band. It’s one of the most heart breaking things I have ever heard, with the lyrics going "I am dying to tell you I am dying here!" sounding like both a plea and a wish at the same time. Absolutely brilliant. The acoustic feel continues into Scott Hutchison’s acoustic-turns-unplugged-halfway-through rendition of “Poke” that eventually also ends up in a sing-along. The band comes back for “My Backwards Walk” and the sheer success of everything so far seems to make Hutchison step a bit out of the headlights and he seems open, even playful. We get our energy up again with “The Oil Slick” and “Acts of Man” ending up in an epic fuck-all crescendo. There’s something about the vocals' twist of Scottish dialect that is just begging for a bit of yelling and we get it. The band comes back for an encore consisting of the energetic “The Woodpile”. Then comes epically written “Keep Yourself Warm” with the lyrics “It takes more than fucking someone you don't know to keep warm” and everyone is singing along. The band then wraps up the 1½ hours long show with “The Loneliness and The Scream” and while I am completely knackered, somehow I feel like my soul just got a backrub.

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